IF Adam Lyth needs any encouragement that his England days are not necessarily over, he should look no further than his Yorkshire team-mate, Gary Ballance.
Ballance’s return to the England side for today’s first Test against Pakistan at Lord’s – almost a year after his last appearance – is inspiration to any player that they can respond to setbacks and loss of status.
Lyth, the 28-year-old opening batsman, would not be human if he had not felt deeply his own omission from the England team after a disappointing Ashes series last year, which overshadowed the promise of a hundred at Headingley on only his second Test appearance against New Zealand.
Yet, like Ballance, his fellow left-hander, Lyth remains a class act capable of rising again, and a man whose every innings for Yorkshire provides the chance to do just that and, as a result, to nudge the selectors.
By his own admission, Lyth will have to do plenty of nudging to achieve his aim after an unremarkable first half of the Championship season.
Although he made a hundred against Hampshire at Headingley in the opening match, and another against Somerset at Taunton in May, he averaged only 28 going into this game, his performance mirroring the Yorkshire side in general in that room for improvement was obvious.
As such, an innings of 116 not out yesterday will do him no harm, and it was a classy performance that spanned 182 balls and included 13 fours and two sixes.
After just 49.4 overs were possible on the first two days due to rain, Lyth’s innings underpinned a Yorkshire score of 207-3 in reply to Surrey’s 267, Andrew Gale contributing 61 – his first half-century of the season – and adding 150 with Lyth inside 49 overs.
At least there was plenty of cricket yesterday for the Oval die-hards and the travelling support.
Although it was not what you would call a typical summer’s day by any stretch of the imagination, with a bit of nip in the South London air, it was, at least, sunny for the most part, save for a short delay for bad light late on.
Surrey started the day on 164-5, and they lost a wicket to the fourth ball of the morning when Steve Patterson had Ben Foakes caught at second slip by Lyth without addition to the total.
Foakes simply angled the ball to the fielder in the way that coaches give slip-catching practice before start of play, and Lyth was too “warmed-up” in that regard to miss a simple chance.
Steven Davies, who resumed on 29, played sensibly en route to a 69-ball half-century that contained eight fours, a boundary to mid-wicket off Azeem Rafiq raising the milestone.
Davies received staunch support from 18-year-old Sam Curran, who drove Liam Plunkett to the cover boundary and then reverse-swept Adil Rashid impudently for four through backward square-leg.
Davies and Curran frustrated Yorkshire in a stand of 75 in 23 overs, ended when Tim Bresnan trapped Davies for 56, playing across his pads.
Sam Curran was then joined by his elder brother, Tom, who square-drove Bresnan for four before falling lbw to Rashid, who struck again four balls later when he pinned Surrey captain Gareth Barry in similar style.
Right on lunch, Rafiq ended the innings when Stuart Meaker pushed forward to be caught by Lyth at slip.
It left Sam Curran unbeaten on 59 (just two runs short of his career-best), made from 98 balls with six fours.
The teenager could be well satisfied with his efforts, as could Yorkshire in restricting the hosts to just two batting points on a placid surface.
All the bowlers played their part, with Patterson and David Willey both taking three wickets.
Sam Curran then got to work with the ball by bowling Alex Lees cheaply in Yorkshire’s reply, the visitors falling to 47-2 when Jack Leaning chopped on Meaker’s first delivery as he tried to cut.
But Gale, who averaged only 17 prior to the match, fought with typical determination as he cover drove Meaker for four and then tucked him neatly off his pads to the leg-side boundary, which suggested that the components of his game were in good working order.
Gale reached his half-century from 131 deliveries with seven fours, Lyth going to his hundred moments later with a pull through fine-leg off Meaker to the Pavilion End boundary.
Lyth got to three-figures from 159 balls with 11 fours and two sixes – one maximum over mid-wicket off Batty, the other over long-on off Zafar Ansari.
Gale fell in the closing moments, caught behind off Tom Curran, but it was a good day for the captain and his team.